NFLPA President talks player safety and starting the season amidst a pandemic

The common person sees a union and they think of the workers manufacturing cars, building skyscrapers and working in schools. Today on America’s Work Force Union Podcast, National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) President and Cleveland Browns center JC Tretter discussed the workings of the NFLPA and how they came to an agreement on playing a season amidst a global pandemic.

Getting involved with the NFLPA

As a New York native and Cornell University Industrial and Labor Relations School graduate, Tretter has a knowledge of organized labor that many NFL players do not.

He first gained interest in the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) from former Green Bay Packers teammate Jordy Nelson. Nelson was the team’s union representative and Tretter admired his locker room leadership, inspiring him to get involved in the union.

To become NFLPA president Tretter had to meet with a board of union officials. In this meeting they asked him various questions about his knowledge of collective bargaining, worker protections and other labor related issues.

After being elected NFLPA President in March of 2020, Tretter said his first order of business was ensuring the collective bargaining agreement was passed and that players got what they asked for.

This was soon interrupted by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and more agreements needed to be made to make sure the season could still go on despite the pandemic. These agreements outlined who was allowed at offseason training, how teams were allowed to train and what would happen should an outbreak occur.

After agreeing on preseason measures to avoid contracting COVID-19, the NFLPA had to work on more agreements for playing the regular season. Some of the questions involved having pre-season games, how players who test positive will be treated, special equipment players may use and more.

In the end, the players were able to agree and get the season underway.

Providing a safe workplace

Tretter then presented an old player safety concern. He said the official NFLPA position is to return the game of football to natural grass as opposed to artificial turf.

Since artificial surfaces were first played on, players complained about the toll the surface takes on their bodies and the increased risk of injuries.

He said the NFLPA formed their position based on data showing links between non-contact injuries and artificial turf. Tretter explained that there have been large increases in injuries connected to artificial turf and how it creates an unsafe work environment.

Tretter added that stadiums such as Lambeau Field in Green Bay and FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland have managed to maintain quality natural surfaces in some of the most brutal climates in the country.

Despite this, Tretter said the NFLPA is working with owners on making artificial playing surfaces safer for players.

Finally, he wanted to call extra attention to making the game safer. Tretter said this is his main issue as president of the players union. While the current issue is artificial surfaces, Tretter said the NFLPA has had players families in mind by allowing players to opt-out of the season while maintaining their contract and not facing punishment.

He added that while there are big player safety headlines coming out of the league, progress has been made to make the game safer for players.


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